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Herrstein on the 'Gem Road'

With its gables, towers, walls and lanes, Herrstein is the prototypical example of a medieval town on the upper Nahe river. The establishment of medieval towns was most directly connected with the building of castles. During this time the ruling class (here the Counts of Sponheim) systematically built castles to safeguard their possessions and, in the defense of these castles, simultaneously laid emphasis on developing large settlements from which artisans and, most importantly, men for their armies could be recruited. The granting of a special "city charter", usually justified by means of an imperial freedom letter, made the move to the foot of a castle especially attractive. Due to their elevated legal status, these residents could be called "citizens" ("Bürger" in German), which is derived from the word "castle" ("Burg" in German). In addition, the town and castle were the seat of the court of law and the administration. The freedom of the citizens of medieval towns was, however, kept within strict bounds, for certainly the few privileged patrician families and artisan guilds were in contrast to the majority of the townsfolk who were not "able to take council". This quite often led to social tensions. All citizens were enlisted to maintain the town wall and to defend the castle and town. Part of the town wall was a moat and city gate. Within the walls there was normally a market-place, the town hall, several public wells, and a church.

Clock tower of the medieval town of Herrstein («Idarwald» Forest)
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